Kate NV’s WOW offers listeners a prismatic shift in perspective and scale, a parallel dimension in which the mundane becomes funny, unfamiliar, and altogether sensational. Turning the contents of her 2020 album Room for the Moon upside down and spilling them across a floor checkered with intrigue and surprise, Kate places sound, object, and ritual under the microscope to magnify the delight hidden in plain sight of everyday life.
WOW is Kate Shilonosova’s fourth full-length release as Kate NV in six years, and third for RVNG Intl. Her prolific musical output aligns with a highly attuned aesthetic and a deep commitment to visual world building. WOW is one of many of these worlds in which music is fully saturated with color, deeply tactile and textural. Shiny, sproingy, plastic. Where Room for the Moon embraced structure (abstractly speaking) and veered pop, WOW happily abandons conventional song shapes, parsing the experience of musical time into ecstatic fragments.
It’s difficult to imagine a more fitting album title: pure exclamation, an organic pitch of delight leaving the mouth, with no clear etymological links. On Room for the Moon, Shilonosova’s voice was layered and lyrical, with sweeping and urgent melodies. WOW finds her as a peripheral purveyor of high jinks, peeking out from the corners, commenting on her surroundings in non-verbal, and arguably non-human, utterances. Instead of employing lyricism, Shilonosova steps outside of language, and rewards us with a gum ball machine of textures: soda fizz and wind-up teeth and scraps of bubble wrap become comically huge, as if heard from an insect’s perspective. Words are tasty plosives, onomatopoeias, percussive chirps and one-liners, and singing serves as another form of what Shilonosova refers to as “funny tiny sounds.”
WOW skews and skitters, trips over its own feet and laughs about it, plays out of tune on purpose, tilts and leans like a top-heavy flower. Shilonosova is a longtime user of Found Sound Nation’s Broken Orchestra sample pack, a sound catalog of over one thousand dilapidated instruments sourced from Philadelphia public schools. These perfectly imperfect instruments are tightly spliced into WOW’s patchwork of synthesizer and reworked snippets of Shilonosova’s friends playing clarinet, flute, and marimba. It’s central to the record’s internal logic: a disregard for what is, and isn’t, broken, what is, and isn’t, a sentence or a song. A commingling of subject and object, with a firmly new wave sensibility.
Shilonosova has long had an unusual relationship with inanimate objects (citing her bicycle as her best friend), as if the joys they evoke for her are personality traits of the objects themselves. On WOW, she evinces a kind of inverted anthropomorphism: she shrinks her voice and becomes an object among multitudes, toylike in size and perspective, cohabitating with sedentary, indifferent roommates. This pursuit of childlike perspectives is a thread that runs through much of her catalog, and places her work on a plane with that of her personal hero Nobukazu Takemura, who for decades has treated his music as a portal to childlike curiosity, both in subject matter and tone.
With an invitation to pursue this curiosity, WOW further confirms Kate NV’s deeply inventive, fluid and technically dizzying artistry. By refusing constraints and rules, Shilonosova embodies a profound freedom, allowing objects, sounds, and processes to unfold organically; or, as she puts it, a commitment to “accepting randomness.” She succeeds terrifically at a breed of auditory defamiliarization that is all her own, and the rewards for listeners are many: through her lens, the small becomes monstrous, the abstract becomes sensorial, and the old becomes new.
Kate NV’s WOW will be released on March 3, 2023 on vinyl, Japanese Import CD, and digital formats. On behalf of Kate NV and RVNG, a portion of the proceeds from this release will benefit War Child, an organization that supports children and their families impacted by conflict, and working to build sustainable peace for generations to come.